ASU Professor Becomes Distinguished Fellow of Nation’s Oldest Engineering Society

The title of Distinguished Member is an honor reserved only for the most eminent professionals in the American Society of Civil Engineersor ASCE.

Being recognized requires years of industry service and peer recommendation. No more than 12 members across the country can be selected in a single year and fewer than 300 have been selected since the title was created by the ASCE in 1853.

Samuel Ariaratnam holds the Beavers-Ames Chair in Heavy Construction for the Del E. Webb School of Construction at Arizona State University. Photo by Monica Williams/ASU
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But Samuel Ariaratnamthe Beavers-Ames Chair in heavy construction of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environmentpart of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, stood out among the membership corps.

According to his peers, Ariaratnam has demonstrated outstanding leadership and made outstanding contributions to academia, research, practice and education in construction methods used for trenchless and underground construction. These contributions led to his selection as a Distinguished Fellow of ASCE. He will be honored as part of the Class of Distinguished Members of 2022 at the ASCE National Convention in Anaheim, Calif., on Oct. 24.

“I am honored by this recognition,” says Ariaratnam. “I look forward to continuing to serve the profession and helping to advance the use of underground construction methods.”

According to the ASCE, a Distinguished Member “is a person who has attained eminence in any branch of engineering or in the arts and sciences related thereto, including the fields of engineering education and construction”.

“Ariaratnam has worked tirelessly to connect research and practice through her scholarship and professional pursuits,” says Ram Pendyala, director of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. “As chair of our ABET-accredited construction engineering program, he advances the workforce of tomorrow. We are absolutely delighted to see him rewarded with this honor for a lifetime of dedicated service and contributions to the profession.

Ariaratnam is recognized as the leading researcher within what is known as the “Underground Infrastructure Management and Rehabilitation Research Community”, where particular emphasis is placed on the trenchless engineering applications of drilling horizontal direction, pipeline replacement and underground asset management.

Trenchless technological methods involve a variety of underground excavation tools monitored from the ground. These tools are used with new methods to replace deteriorated water and sewer lines and install new utility lines. Trenchless methods are also able to reach inaccessible areas, such as land under roads and rivers.

It’s a technique that Ariaratnam often explains using an open-heart surgery metaphor.

“Open pit construction, which is the traditional method of installing and repairing underground utilities, can be invasive and similar to a procedure with a large incision and a long recovery time,” he says. “In contrast, using a trenchless method is similar to angioplasty, which involves equipment such as probes and cameras with minimal surface disturbance and minimal downtime.”

He says that with trenchless technology, the system is operational almost immediately after installations and repairs.

Ariaratnam is the author of over 350 articles and technical reports, co-author of eight textbooks, co-holder of five patents, and has given over 270 guest presentations worldwide. He has served by appointment on two study committees of the US National Academies. In March 2022, Ariaratnam was named by U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to sit on the Gas Pipeline Advisory Committee. He is a professional engineer in Arizona and Ontario, Canada.

In addition to this honor of becoming an ASCE Distinguished Fellow, Ariaratnam has earned the John O. Bickel Awardthe Arthur M. Wellington Awardthe Pipeline Division Excellence Award and the Stephen D. Bechtel Award for Pipeline Engineering of the society. He was also elected to National Academy of Construction in 2019 and the Canadian Academy of Engineering in 2018.

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